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Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs
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Legacy of a Fallen Dynasty
As political stress grew still further, the emotional focus of the family turned inward, which sentiment Faberge’s eggs reflected. For example, the Mosaic Egg of 1914 contains inside of a jeweled mosaic a relief of all five royal children with their names inscribed on the back. Foremost among the eggs of this time is the Czarevich Egg, crafted in 1912. Nicholas and Alexandra had long awaited a son and heir, but when he was born, Alekcei was sick with hemophilia. He survived, and in honor of the miracle, Faberge designed this special egg for the empress with Alekcei’s picture mounted on the eagle emblem of the royal house as the surprise inside.
The last major series of events before the collapse of the Russian empire occurred during World War I, an unpopular war among the Russian people: they were fighting on behalf of others, on foreign territory, and suffering unbelievable losses. Accordingly, most of Faberge’s last eggs depict events and emotions from this conflict. The war demanded that all possible resources be devoted to armies. The Steel Military Egg from 1916 reflects this shift away from the fine things of palace life to the harsher reality of war. The egg is supported by four artillery shells, and inside is a painting of Nicholas leading his troops. The Order of St. George Egg was presented to Maria Fedorovna in 1916 in honor of her son’s military accomplishments during World War I. She cherished it so much that when she escaped Russia in 1918, she took it with her, the only egg that left Russia until the time of Stalin.
After the October revolution of 1917 and subsequent assassination of the royalty in 1918, the Faberge eggs were nearly forgotten. The house of Faberge was forced to turn its’ assets over to the new government, and Carl Faberge and his family were forced to leave the country. Author Geza von Habsburg states: “When Faberge saw all that was lost – all of the members of the Imperial family on Russian soil had been murdered – he decided that was it, his whole world had collapsed, and he fled to Switzerland, where he died in 1920 of (I would say) a broken heart” (Treasures).
As for the eggs themselves, Communist ideology held no place for extravagances such as the imperial eggs. Several were lost when the Bolsheviks looted the imperial palaces, and the rest were boxed up and stored in the vaults of the Kremlin until about 1927 when they were rediscovered by Stalin. Recognizing that such “trinkets” could easily be sold in western markets for much-needed foreign currency, Stalin had many opened and sold. Their true value was hardly fathomed at that time: rather than being recognized as masterpieces of creation and invention, they were seen merely as unwanted tokens of the imperial rule. Although curators at the Kremlin Armory tried to hide many and save what they recognized as national treasures, 14 eggs were still sold on foreign markets, sometimes for as little as 400 American dollars at art auctions. Of the 50 known eggs, eight are lost, and the rest are in various museums and private collections (see part 4).
Although Faberge himself was of French nationality, his work is a stunning
reflection of the grandeur of the last days of the Russian empire and
the Romanov dynasty. While some are indeed merely beautiful accomplishments
of fine art, most eggs closely portray the emotions and events in the
lives of the members of the royal family. From a country that suffered
from persecution, famine, war, and ultimately revolution, the imperial
Easter eggs of the House of Faberge serve as vivid insights into the
last days of the Romanov dynasty.
Pictures of select Imperial Eggs
The Alexander Palace Egg – 1908 This egg is made from carved jade and has a scale replica of the favorite country retreat. The palace model measures 2 ½ inches long.
The Standart Egg – 1909 Enclosed is a replica of the family yacht, reproduced in exact detail. The egg and the sea are made from rock crystal.
The Czarevich Egg – 1912 This was the most cherished egg of Alexandra Fedorovna. Her son, the heir to the throne, was sick with hemophilia. Faberge created this egg in honor of the healing. The egg is blue enamel on gold. An image of the prince sits inside the eagle symbol of the House of Romanov.